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Falling Back into Health with the help of the North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital

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  • Written By: Tammy Nunez
Falling Back into Health with the help of the North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital

Patty Hubert knew she was in the right place when Dr. Rishi Pathak, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, dug a little deeper while treating her as she recently recovered from a broken leg and fractured lower back at North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital.

“Dr. Pathak said, ‘We need to find out why you're falling so much,’” Patty remembered.

Her first fall came on Jan. 31, 2022, when she was getting out of a chair at home, fell and broke her leg. All the other facilities that managed her care only treated her physical injury, repairing the fracture and focusing on physical rehabilitation. When she fell again a few months later at home and fractured her sacrum, the focus moved to her back.

“Up until Dr. Pathak asked, ‘Why is this happening?,’ no other medical expert had put it all in perspective.”

“I think you might have too much spinal fluid, which makes you unbalanced,” Patty recalled Dr. Pathak saying. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m cuckoo.’ It turns out that that’s what it was.”

Patty, 69, was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus, a condition often misdiagnosed in older adults as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a brain disorder in which excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) accumulates in the brain's ventricles, causing thinking and reasoning problems, difficulty walking and loss of bladder control.

“A little more about the condition is that it is estimated that approximately 10 percent of the 5.2 million individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other related dementia are, in fact, living with NPH,” Dr. Pathak revealed. “Unlike other dementias, NPH has a treatment option, and successful treatment can allow an individual to return to an active lifestyle.”

Dr. Pathak collaborated with other North Oaks specialists to create a personalized plan of care for Patty. That included verifying the diagnosis with several procedures and tests, and connecting Patty to the North Oaks neurosurgery team, who implanted a shunt in Patty’s side to regulate the excess fluid.

“Once I got all that [excess] spinal fluid out of me, I was able to stand up,” Patty shared.

The first steps toward independence were made.

Patty, fit, active and running her insurance business in Ponchatoula, said the falls robbed her of normal living. She couldn’t think clearly, and she had trouble walking normally. She also couldn’t do anything on her own, including bathing, cooking or getting up to get a glass of water.

It’s a far cry from the beginning of the journey. Patty was literally rolled into North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital in a wheelchair. After the intensive inpatient therapy that involved at least three hours of therapy a day, she regained much of what she had lost.

Outpatient therapy was the next step for Patty, who finished her final appointment on Dec. 29, 2023.

She walked out of North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital with a clear mind, strong body and her independence.

The difference?

“At other places, they don't listen to the patient. They just look at the test results, and one of the things I can tell you about Dr. Pathak is that he listens. He really does. The neurologist, he listened. That has caused me to have a [positive] change of life.”

The approach is hardwired for Dr. Pathak and the North Oaks team.

“I spent time getting to know Patty as an individual,” he explained. “Too often in healthcare, our patients are moved too quickly through the care continuum. We have an advantage in the rehabilitation hospital of having time.”

Length of stays in rehabilitation hospitals vary, but patients must be able to participate in therapy for at least three hours a day to be admitted. That time with a patient isn’t just physical, it’s also geared to the mind and spirit. The involvement of the whole rehabilitation staff rounds out the picture and dramatically improves the care, Patty asserted.

The team-based, patient-centric approach transformed Patty’s world.

Dr. Pathak couldn’t be more in agreement. “Physical medicine and rehabilitation is a team effort,” he shared. “I would be nothing if not for our exceptional treatment team (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathologists, case managers and certified nurses). We discuss each patient as a whole on a daily basis and then once a week formally. We also take into account and incorporate family members, especially in the case of individuals with memory deficits.”

With Patty, Dr. Pathak consulted her husband Paul and spent a lot of time with him to understand who Patty was before all the strange symptoms began. It helped him not only design a care plan to restore her abilities back to pre-NHP levels, but it also helped him find the underlying issue causing the falls.

“When I see Patty walk into my office, I feel a sense of joy that we were able to restore her functional abilities across the board,” Dr. Pathak shared. “It took the entire interdisciplinary team day in and day out to restore her level of function.”

North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital, the area’s only dual-accredited inpatient facility, treats patients recovering from spinal cord injuries, strokes, amputations, multiple traumas and neurological issues, among other conditions. To be admitted, patients must be referred by a physician. Please visit or call (985) 230-2678 for more information.